Cats are naturally squeamish about interacting with their carriers and can make quite a deal of a fuss if not properly introduced to the thing. So that its next trip to the vet doesn’t begin with a scratching and hissing fit, a responsible pet owner can take a few simple steps to ensure his charge’s cooperation.
First things first, the training process should commence as early in the cat’s life as possible, or immediately after the kitty arrives in your house, if it’s already an adult. As per the gear, you can choose from any of the critically acclaimed cat carriers on the market with the mention that cats prefer hard walls and you might sometimes need to get the top of the box off.
The cat shouldn’t see its carrier as a foreign object, one that will surely get associated with unpleasant experiences. That’s why it is important to keep it in a highly circulated area of the house, where the pet will get familiar with it and will eventually decide to explore it on its own.
To encourage this, try placing some of the cat’s favorite items inside, like its toy or favorite blanket, even an article of clothing from a person the feline likes in particular. Once the pet is familiar with the new place, you can begin training it to get inside at your request.
Try making a line of treats, throwing a new one as the cat eats, that lead to the door of the carrier, with the final prize somewhere near the back wall. As you place the last treat, it might be a good idea to say a word, something like “carrier” or “vet”, that the cat will learn to associate with the pleasant experience of receiving something it likes.
Once the cat goes in, sometimes requiring a nudge from you, make sure to reinforce this behavior by petting and offering another treat. This should be repeated again on the same day, without using as many treats. The one inside the box will work as enticement and the final one as reward.
It might require 3 or 4 training sessions for the cat to get the hang of going in at your request. Once this happens, you can start to accustom it to having the door closed. Only hold it shut for a few seconds the first time, and then reinforce the experience with petting and treats if the cat has kept its calm.
This should be repeated for several times a day over the course of half a week, progressively lengthening the amount of time the door will stay closed. After the cat gets comfortable with being confined to the carrier, you can start to practice moving it about.
Take him on a trip to another room, initially, and once there don’t forget to give him a treat for being well behaved. Repeat this for a couple of times until you think he’s ready for a walk to the car. Once there, close the door, put on the seatbelt and go through the moves of starting the car.
You won’t really have to take a drive around the block at this stage, it’s enough to get your cat used to being inside a vehicle.